So, let’s try to sort this out. Sensei is Japanese for teacher. A burrito is a (Tex-)Mexican tortilla wrap. Poké (which rhymes with okay and means ‘to cut’ or ‘section’) is a centuries-old dish from the Aloha State — and it is mostly what the four-month old Burrito Sensei on Bank Street is about. Food is served either in a bowl or (essentially the same ingredients) wrapped in nori, like a fat maki roll, but eaten with hands like a burrito — minus the pinto beans, sour cream and jack cheese.
Burrito Sensei moved into the space vacated by the Italian-ish restaurant Vetta Osteria in May. It’s run by the same people who own Sushi 88 on Somerset. Since my first visit, they’ve expanded the space, obtained a liquor license, and though most folk seem to use Burrito Sensei for takeaway, there’s a bar and tables where you can have food delivered via a numbered card you take to your seat.
First, you place your order at the burrito bar. You can choose a poké bowl or a sushi burrito a la carte (there are 12 options for that), or you can DIY with a custom order sheet. On that (small) sheet, you choose either a burrito or a bowl, and the starch you want, then choose from among 8 main ingredients, 13 toppings, 6 ‘premium’ toppings (add $0.99), 6 spices, and 15 sauces/dressings. You can further opt to double the protein (though the fine print says there’s a maximum of 2x main ingredients) and add extra sauce on the side (you are allowed 2 sauces or dressings with your order) for another $0.99.
I imagine with repeat visits you become an ordering superstar. I am not there — at least not yet. And as you examine the options and ask questions and try to figure out what the add-ons might cost, the queue behind you grows.
So, I’ve only tried the a la carte. The Tuna Chop with brown rice was very nice, the fish — fresh; the rice — body temperature; and it was topped with avocado, greens, cilantro, scallions, tempura panko, tobiko, sesame and mango salsa. I thought it could use a bit more texture (other than the bit of tobiko crunch and some crisped panko, it was a pretty soft bowl).
I was less enamored with the sushi burrito. It’s difficult to bite through nori and the package fell apart.
At one visit the white rice in the poké bowl was overcooked and clumped together badly. During another, the rice was cooler than ideal. My best poké was at my last visit — the rice warm, the cubes of fish cool and fresh tasting, the toppings lively. I asked for more crunchy stuff and was obliged. It felt like a fairly-priced, tasty, healthy bowl for lunch, and though I’m not bowled over by any of it, it was perfectly enjoyable.
199 Bank Street
Poké bowls and sushi burrito, $11.50 to $14.75
Monday to Saturday, 11:30am to 9pm